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THOUSANDS of train commuters, including about 800 stuck inside carriages, were left stranded as chaos struck the Geelong line tonight.
Some passengers were stuck for more than five hours as up to six peak-hour V/Line trains were stopped in their tracks between Werribee and Little River stations following a signal fault.
V/Line confirmed more than 10 Geelong-bound services and six peak-hour Melbourne trains were delayed after the signal system servicing both Metro and V/Line trains shut down at Werribee.
The 5.08pm service to South Geelong, carrying 300 passengers, and the 5.21pm to Marshall, carrying 500 passengers, were stranded near Werribee, trapping frustrated commuters inside the carriages.
``Those trains were stuck and still limping between Werribee and Little River and it's 8.45pm,'' V/Line spokesman Daniel Moloney said.
``The whole signalling system has gone down. They (V/Line maintenance workers) are still trying to find the cause of the fault. They believe it's an interface problem where the Metro and V/Line signals meet at Werribee.''
Some commuters were placed on coaches, hundreds were stranded on platforms in Melbourne and Geelong and two peak trains caught in the heart of the chaos travelled at less than 30km/h for more than 40km.
``We're trying to get people home as soon as we can but those two trains are quite likely to be going at 25km/h,'' Mr Moloney said.
``We're still, at 8.45pm, encouraging people to find their own way home because we simply don't have the buses.
``We're fully investigating what went on, we still don't have the answers. We'll be offering free travel to anyone affected tonight and we simply can't apologise enough for the incredible amount of inconvenience people have suffered.''
Members of the under-15 Geelong Falcons team, which contested the first round of the V/Line Cup in Melbourne today, were also caught up in the chaos.
More than 50 players remained on the 5.08 train after 9.30pm tonight.
``They're tired, hungry and sore and they have to be back on the train at 7.30 in the morning to go back again,'' said Breakwater's Fiona Schlensog, who waited at Geelong station for several hours for her footballing son to arrive.
Gary, of Newtown, boarded a bus about 8.20pm after waiting almost three hours for a train at Southern Cross Station to Geelong.
``I've just got on the bus but there's hundreds of people trying to get some level of transport,'' he said.
``It's a shemozzle. It's not acceptable and they don't seem to have a plan in place.
``There seems to be 1000 people or more affected. My concern is this happened three weeks ago and I wrote a letter to the Minister (Terry Mulder) and he hasn't responded.''
Regular train commuter Jess Craven was outraged.
``It is an absolute disgrace that I'm forced to pay $250 for a service that gets me home late more often than not,'' she said.
``Geelong is never going to progress to where it should be until it gets a decent train service. People have been forced to call taxis to get home that's the disdain with which they (V/Line) are treating their customers.''
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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